Convention Center Expansion Facing Union Lawsuit
Friday, February 24, 2012
Aired 2/24/12 on KPBS News.
San Diego hotel workers are speaking out against the proposed Convention Center expansion. The union representing San Diego’s hotel workers has filed a lawsuit against the project.
SAN DIEGO The lawsuit filed by county’s hospitality and tourism workers union, Unite Here Local 30, alleges the funding mechanism being proposed for the Convention Center expansion is illegal. The plan calls for hotel owners to vote to increase hotel room taxes, with the revenue going toward the expansion. The union maintains the entire city should vote on the tax.
In addition, Union President Brigette Browning said the project is poorly conceived. She cites the Staples Center in Los Angeles as a project that got it right.
“They incorporated a low-income housing component. They did a training program where youth who were graduating from high school were put to work,” she said. “So, when the project came forward, many, many different groups could support it because they saw value in it for the community.”
Browning said San Diego’s hotel owners would be the only ones to benefit from the project. The group has filed its suit in San Diego Superior Court.
But City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the suit is unnecessary. If the hotel owners approve the tax this spring, his office is already planning to file a suit to test the validity of the funding plan.
“Just cool your heels,” he said. “We will file a validation lawsuit, that means we won’t collect any taxes until everybody has a chance to come in and say that it’s illegal in their opinion. We will set out the case as to why it’s legal. A judge will look at it, make a determination and we’ll all be happy.”
Goldsmith said the validation process could take at least a year. At issue is whether the entire city needs to vote on the room tax increase rather than just hotel owners.
The Convention Center expansion is projected to cost $520 million. The hotel room taxes would make up the majority of the funding, contributing about $35 million a year. The city and the Port of San Diego would also contribute to the project.